Trust Orders Car Wash To Cease Operations (Thanks to SLM Delegation)

The cordoned off car wash at Leyton Marshes car park, on Lea Bridge Road.

The cordoned off car wash at Leyton Marshes car park, on Lea Bridge Road.

After our delegation at the annual Authority meeting in June, we have now received news that the LVRPA has finally responded to our complaints about the car wash operating without planning permission:

“Following confirmation from the London Borough of Waltham Forest (the Council) that planning consent has not yet been granted the Trust have requested that the operator cease trading until such time planning permission is obtained.”

This is good news. However, permanent structures should never have been constructed and the business should not have been able to operate without planning permission, or the appropriate permit from Thames Water, on Leyton Marshes.

The Trust and the Authority are also continuing their claim that a car wash does not constitute ‘car maintenance’ and is therefore permissable under the Park Act!

They state in their letter, “we do not consider that the Trust and/or its sub-contractor are carrying on the business of maintaining [or repairing] motor vehicles.”

We have a partial victory, let’s keep going!

Please write to Planning at Waltham Forest Council and object to the application (ref. 160334). Please use points from our previous post to object.

Twitter: @wfcouncil
Website: www.walthamforest.gov.uk

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Hackney Marshes: Planning Committee Meeting

Update: Hackney Planning Committee voted to pass the amendments, including the removal of the condition to reduce vehicle spaces, subject to a Travel Plan for the whole of Hackney Marshes.  The decision means the car park at North Marsh will permanently have 68 spaces for vehicles, rather than being reduced to 58.

A proposal for charging for vehicle parking on the marshes is now under consideration.

A letter from the Open Spaces Society, who supported our position at the public inquiry last year, appeared in the Gazette a few days ago, you can read it here.

We will continue to lobby for sustainable travel and for a reduction in vehicle use across the marshes. It is likely the revised plans will now have to go back to the Planning Inspector.

We have just received news that Hackney Planning Committee will be meeting next week to discuss amendments to the planning permission given. The Council wish to remove the condition to reduce the number of car parking places on North Marsh and electric charging points originally promised and recommended by Transport for London.

Save Lea Marshes and HMUG will be speaking against the plan to remove the condition to reduce the number of car parking places.

Here are the details:

Application Number: 2016/1018

Site Address: Hackney Marshes London E9

Development Description:

Section 73 application to vary conditions 1 (Plans), 5 (Car Park Management), 6 (Cycle Parking), 7 (Accessible Parking), 8 (Travel Plan) and remove conditions 9 (North Marsh Space Reduction) and 10 (Electric Vehicle Charging Points) attached to permission 2014/2582 (Provision of Pavilion Changing Facilities and associated parking provision at North and East Marshes) to convert the approved car park and associated works at East Marsh to soft landscaping, remove the requirements for electric charging points and a reduction in car parking over 5 years at North Marsh and deliver accessible parking spaces at North Marsh, prior to occupation of the approved changing facilities.

The Planning Officer is recommending that Planning Permission be Granted.

The report is likely to be considered at the next Planning Sub-Committee Meeting where a final decision will be taken as to whether to support or reject the recommendation. The details of the meeting are as follows –

Venue: Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street, E8 1EA
Date: 27 July 2016
Time: 6.30pm.

How to view the Planning Sub-Committee Agenda:

To view the Planning Sub-committee agenda and the Planning Officer’s report, please visit the Council’s website at www.hackney.gov.uk/council-democracy.htm

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Arguments for the car wash don’t wash!

Car wash canopy

These are extracts from a speech given to the Authority AGM concerning the new car wash, which has started operating without planning permission:

We are extremely concerned that the Leisure Trust is becoming a vehicle for uncontrolled and inappropriate commercial developments, of which the unsightly car wash that has sprung up on Lea Bridge Road is a highly visible example.

It doesn’t just look awful, smell awful, encourage car use and further degrade this part of the Park. It has been introduced without regard to legal constraints or the democratic processes of the Authority:

1

Firstly, in providing a car wash service on Lea Bridge Road on its own land inside the car park for the ice centre the Authority is acting outside its powers as set out in section 12 of the Park Act  – to operate the park as a place for the “occupation of leisure, recreation, sport, games or amusements and similar activities… the provision of nature reserves and provision and enjoyment of entertainments of any kind”.

A carwash can’t reasonably be argued to fall within this purpose, but Section 13 goes further to specifically state “nothing in this section shall empower the Authority—

(b)   To carry on the business of maintaining or repairing motor vehicles.”.

In offering a car washing and valeting service, the Authority is clearly carrying on the business of maintaining motor vehicles

2

The car wash has been constructed and opened without regard to the terms of the lease of the Ice Centre premises entered into by Leisure Trust. The Lease section 8.4 states that no operation or change of use on the premises may be carried out until all necessary permissions under the Planning Acts have been obtained and the Landlord has acknowledged that every necessary planning permission is acceptable to it.

Nevertheless construction has been completed and operations commenced without planning permission being obtained.

The car wash is not a ‘complementary service to customers’ as Chief Executive Shaun Dawson has asserted. Anyone can use the car wash without even visiting the ice centre, and the prominent signage on Lea Bridge Road aims to directly attract people from outside the venue.
3

Shaun Dawson has stated that ‘it is widely acknowledged that the most effective deterrent to car crime (theft, vandalism etc) is maintaining a physical presence in the car park and a car valeting operation is the most cost effective way of achieving this.’ We have never been made aware that vehicle theft and vandalism have taken place on site. Presumably most crimes of this nature will actually take place during the night, when the car wash will be shut. Therefore this appears to be a spurious argument.
4

The planning application for the car wash is misleading and inaccurate. For example by claiming there is no trade effluent, though waste water from commercial car washing is classified as such and requires permission from Thames Water to discharge to sewers – which does not seem to have been applied for or obtained. The planning application also states that the facility is not on contaminated land and it is not close to a water course. Both these claims are wrong. The car wash is situated on Leyton Marshes which have been used for historical landfill and the site is in close proximity to the Lea navigation. It says the canopy will be green, in reality it’s blue, and omits the water supply cabinets and signage  installed.
The facility as constructed deviates from the tender specification which says, “The Tenant may erect a temporary canopy and use moveable equipment. Under no circumstances is the Tenant permitted anything of a permanent nature.”

 

The Tenant must “not make any structural changes” and not “change or alter in any way the service pipes, electrical cables or conduits in the car park” You can see from these images of the car wash that the structure is not moveable and is secured with reinforced concrete mounting blocks set into the ground with steel water pump cabinets, and associated wiring and plumbing.

5

Most importantly, it is not an appropriate structure on Metropolitan Open Land, as it does not support any recreational use of the surrounding MOL. We seek your reassurance that inappropriate facilities will not be allowed on MOL and there will be no contravention of the Park Act.

 

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Leyton Marsh Development Plans: Local Campaigner Laurie Elks Speaks Out

SLM agree with Laurie that Leyton Marsh is the wrong place for the new enlarged ice centre, here Laurie expresses his views about the nature of the plans. Much food for thought:

Open Letter to Shaun Dawson re: The Ice Centre

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter.

It seems to me that the most important statement in your letter is that the Authority is determined to go ahead on 16th June, whatever the arguments, and from that point the die will be cast.

I will nevertheless, make this further iteration, drawing attention to some of the difficulties of your arguments.

Let me at the outset offer a personal vision as to the way things should go.  The Olympic Park should be a sporting campus offering top class sporting facilities on a site well served by roads and public transport benefitting from the brand of the Olympic Park and the network effect of co-locating elite venues.

The public transport can and undoubtedly will be improved.  With the increase of population in Chobham Manor there is clearly scope for a shuttle bus which could draw up in a forecourt serving the Ice Centre.  (This would be hugely more attractive to the female users you mention than walking down Lea Bridge Road and waiting for a quarter hourly service at Lea Bridge Station.)

Car users (whom you confirm would be the majority of users) would approach the Centre via high capacity roads.  Contrast the situation at Lea Bridge where large numbers of motorists converging for sporting events will be taken by their satnavs along Homerton High Street and Chatsworth Road.

The Lea Bridge Road site would be greened by the removal of the execrable ice centre – a smaller building serving the open space with café, cycle hire and the like could be provided.

If there is an established business case for local facilities such as a gym and dance centre, the underused space north of the Waterworks Centre (and adjacent to the new station) could be considered.

I repeat that I do not doubt the Park Authority can build a successful ice centre but the vision I set out would be manifestly better and I am not persuaded that the case has been fairly considered.

I will turn to some of the arguments you make.

Capacity for Expansion

We were told at the engagement meeting I attended that “capacity for expansion” and “ability to expand” had been taken into account.  Both phrases were used by your colleague and appeared to make up two of the four sub-criteria going to make up “physical characteristics”.

Now you tell me that any expansion will be

within the 7200 m2 building footprint which was presented to the public information sessions in April” and that “everything will be contained within one roof from the outset”.

 As both Lea Bridge and Eton Manor are shown as accommodating a 7200m2 building (and both graphics show a corresponding cryptic red dotted line) I am mystified how the greater capacity for expansion of Lea Bridge has found its way into the scoring matrix.

This is a desperately important point and needs to be clarified – you cannot have it both ways.

Ancillary Uses and Business Plan

Your business plan, which tips the scales in favour of Lea Bridge, is clearly based upon local facilities including a fitness gym and dance studio.  You make the point that the Lea Bridge Road area is poorly provided with fitness gyms.

May I make the point that the history of the Park is littered with local facilities that have failed because of their relative isolation in the Lea Valley.  Broxbourne, Picketts Lock, the old Eton Manor site all failed and closed.  Also, the old sports centre at Three Mills.

This is a remarkable litany of failure which should lead to pause for reflection.  Perhaps the Lea Bridge Road area is poorly served because it is a poor location for such facilities. You should also recall that there have been several attempts over the years to interest private leisure investors in the site – all without success.

You might also reflect that your projections for usage of the campsite at the Waterworks site were wildly off the mark.

You can put any figures you like in the Business Plan for usage of the gym but I forecast they will prove grossly over-optimistic.

Transport

Your travel time matrix smacks of advocacy.  A 9 minute journey time from Lea Bridge to Tottenham Hale implies a very brisk walk and a perfectly timed arrival to meet the incoming train.  A 25 minute journey time from Eton Manor to Stratford disregards the obvious fact that it would be a straightforward matter to have a shuttlebus service to Stratford (see my previous letter).

Personally, I do not think that many users, particularly women, will fancy the journey home by Lea Bridge.  As the station is now open, I suggest that your members try it before the decisive meeting – this is a serious suggestion.

Car Parking and Eton Manor

I have now seen so many different explanations of the car parking problem at Eton Manor that I am confused.

  • Capacity limited to 180 cars – 220 needed (engagement meeting)
  • Co-locating so many elite regional sporting venues in one place – Eton Manor, does have drawbacks: when a venue is hosting an event the other venues are inhibited and public use sometimes has to stop.” (This comes from Cllr Chris Kennedy but based, I assume on information from your officers.)
  • The LLDC have indicated that only ‘blue badge parking would be allowed” (Your recent letter)
  • The local planning officers have suggested that the planning authority is unlikely to agree to this quantum of car parking spaces” (Your recent letter)

In effect, both LLDC and LBWF are invoked as in some way inimical to Eton Manor but there is no evidence to support this.  Personally, I find it hard to understand why LBWF would be more favourable to parking provision in Lea Bridge Road, which is notoriously congested, than at Eton Manor.  Have you any evidence to substantiate these claims?  It would be an extraordinarily grave matter if these objections had been in some way exaggerated.

Landscape and Open Land

Your letter is not particularly clear but you seem to say that Lea Bridge and Eton Manor came out equal on the scoring matrix because both are on Metropolitan Open Land.  You also make the point that a centre at Lea Bridge would be the redevelopment of an existing site.

This seems to me disingenuous.  It remains a central part of the Park Authority’s remit to protect and enhance the Park as open space and green lung.  It must be correct to evaluate the impact of each site on the Park as green lung comparing the erection of the Ice Centre on each proposed site with the counterfactual (i.e. no ice centre on the site).

The Lea Bridge site, striding across the gap between Essex Wharf and the Riding centre, manifestly affects the Park as green open space; to use planning parlance, it affects the setting of landscape assets in a very prominent and unsatisfactory way.  The Eton Manor site whilst also MOL, is entirely surrounded by roads, traffic and other built facilities.  You are not comparing like with like and to score them equally, because both have the same status as MOL, is bending reality.

 Area 2 Proposals

 The adopted Area 2 proposals include the following:

2.A.6. Lea Bridge Road

Develop new leisure and recreation facilities within the Lea Bridge Road visitor node. Potential sites for such development include the Thames Water Depot (see inset 2.A.6 .1), land adjoining the Waterworks Centre, reuse of existing buildings at Connaught Close and redevelopment of existing industrial land along the eastern edge of the Park. Such development would need to contribute to an enhanced regional offer and would have to be considered in terms of its impact on Metropolitan Open Land, the openness of the Park, its ecological value and need to enhance landscape quality and views through to the rest of the Park.

2.A.6.1 Thames Water Depot

Work with Thames Water, London Borough of Waltham Forest and other stakeholders to identify options for a development at the Thames Water Depot site that will bring this site into a Park compatible use. Appropriate uses would include (but are not restricted to) one or more of the following:

  • A waterside visitor hub incorporating leisure related uses
  • A biodiversity based and/or heritage related visitor attraction
  • Accommodation serving visitors to the Park
  • ‘Community’ related activity and uses as defined by the Authority’s adopted Thematic Proposals
  • New recreational or sporting facilities.

The type, scale and design of any development would need to be appropriate in term of the sites designation as Metropolitan Open Land and its location within the heart of the Regional Park. Development or use of the site would be expected to support and complement existing leisure and nature conservation activity and facilities in the area. It should also enhance landscape quality, the ecological values of the environment and adjoining waterways and protect and bring back into public use buildings of heritage value. The frontage of the site on to the waterways should be protected from any development as an ecological margin. Development of the site should encourage sustainable modes of transport, improve pedestrian and cycle networks and safeguard the route of the Black Path through part of the site. Development of the site which is not appropriate under the terms of the Park Act 1966 and the Park Authority’s remit and does not accord with the proposals set out in the Park Development Framework will be resist

 You have confined yourself in your letter to the statement that: ”We are working with the local planning authority to review how the proposed twin pad can be integrated into its plans for the regeneration of the area”.  Let me pitch my question at a realistic level and ask you whether you are also working with the Local Authority to review how the proposals in the Park Development Framework – for the Thames Water Depot site in particular – can be integrated into its plans for the regeneration of the area.  It is a fair question which deserves a specific reply.

I am copying this letter to Mr Osborn.

Yours sincerely,

Laurie Elks.

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Open Letter to the LVRPA Re Future Plans for Leyton Marsh

Dear Authority Member,

We have become aware that you are shortly to make a decision about the replacement of the current Lee Valley Ice Centre.

We are writing to you in hope that you will take into full consideration the points we raise about the preferred site for the location, Leyton Marsh. Whilst the presentations made on behalf of the Trust refer to Leyton Marsh as ‘the Lea Bridge Road’ site, the current facility is located on Leyton Marshes and any replacement will also be on this area of Metropolitan Open Land.

Firstly, we would like to express our disappointment that the consultation process has been almost non-existent. Whilst Save Lea Marshes were approached by Shaun Dawson regarding our involvement, we were under the impression that this would be part of a meaningful community consultation with users of the facility and the marshes. However, once we took part in the sessions, we were informed in no uncertain terms that the presentations were ‘not consultations’. If this is the case, no consultation has been made with the community prior to the recommendation for Leyton Marsh to be chosen as the site for the enlarged replacement of the Ice Centre. Nonetheless, Waltham Forest Council has already expressed its support for the current site to be chosen, in advance of any planning application process or consultation of its own. Views of the community appear entirely absent from consideration of the sites in question, including Leyton Marsh, which is not only prised as a valuable open green space by many people from both Waltham Forest and Hackney, but is also directly adjacent to residential dwellings at Essex Wharf.

The preferred location has been selected by means of a “scoring matrix”. This appears to be little more than a crude tally of tickboxes – the more boxes ticked for a site the higher its score.  Such a naïve method is woefully inadequate.  Firstly, the scores for each criterion are expressed as percentages, but there is no indication what they are percentages of.  Secondly, no thought appears to have been given as to how the scores for the different criteria are to be combined together.  To give a concrete example from the table:

Criterion LV Ice Centre Eton Manor
Physical characteristics 17.6% 10.8%
Commercial/Financial 13.2% 14.0%

This shows (if the figures are to be believed) that the Ice Centre is better than Eton Manor for Physical characteristics, but worse for Commercial/Financial.  But without much more information there is no meaningful way to compare the relative advantage for one criterion with the relative disadvantage for the other.

Thirdly and most importantly, there are many crucial areas for consideration which are missing from the scoring matrix altogether. We would like to share with you some of these most important considerations, although they are by no means comprehensive, and demonstrate that the decision of where to locate the new Ice Centre will have far reaching ramifications for both people and wildlife.

Despite the fact that Leyton Marsh is valuable as a wildlife habitat; contains a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation; is protected Metropolitan Open Land and forms an important buffer to Walthamstow Marshes, the Site of Special Scientific Interest, no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out. Walthamstow Marshes is increasingly being cut off by new developments and in areas of non-contiguous habitat, nature cannot thrive. The lack of such an EiA shows a disregard for the environmental aspects of the new development, which surely must form a comprehensive part of any viability report and recommendation.

Metropolitan Open Land has been given protected status in order to preserve openness in increasingly built-up urban environments. If Leyton Marsh is chosen as the site for the new Ice Centre, views of the marsh will be seriously obstructed from Lea Bridge Road and the integrity of our valued Lea Valley marshes as a green lung for East London will be compromised. One of the reasons Eton Manor was not selected as the prime venue is due to the fact a higher building specification would be required, suggesting the building on Lea Bridge Road will be visually poor, not unlike the current building. The best possible design should be selected, not the worst.

Ground contamination must be considered since the site is contaminated by heavy metals, asbestos and alkaline soils, as well as known UXOs as it was used for the burial of post-war bomb rubble and as a graveyard for UXOs as it was believed the land would not ever be excavated. Excavating toxic waste on contaminated land should clearly be a last resort.

Despite the proximity to residential housing, noise pollution has not been considered. This will be an issue for local residents, particularly at Essex Wharf, and especially during the night. Local residents already face noise pollution and some suffer from sleep disturbance as a result of the close proximity to the current facility. Light pollution will also increase and inevitably affect wildlife.

One of the most concerning aspects of the chosen site is that it is preferred due to its potential for expansion. Leyton Marsh scores highly due to its ‘physical characteristics’. This category has been determined by: how the curtilage of the ice pads would fit on the site; capability of expansion; ability to generate other revenue opportunities and ground and landscape constraints. Expansion is the explicit criterion by which Leyton Marsh scores highest and therefore has been deemed the overall first choice. If it hadn’t been included, Leyton Marsh would be deemed third choice. However, our community love this marsh and do not wish to see it built on. The stables have already seen 12 expansions on to previously open public land on Leyton Marshes. The very nature of the scoring assessment is incompatible with the public claim that there will be no expansion on to Leyton Marsh.

The increase in car parking will undermine the recent structural changes made to reduce traffic and pollution through the Mini Holland scheme. A bigger car park will lead to yet more felling of trees and reduction of green space, yet a bigger venue will no doubt have one. Car parking increases will increase traffic, congestion and air pollution on the Lea Bridge Road which is already badly congested. The Mini Holland scheme, which has just led to the destruction of mature trees on the marsh, was meant to reduce reliance on cars. If Leyton Marsh is chosen, more cars will be encouraged to use the Lea Bridge Road. Presumably this is the reason why a car wash has already been given permission to set up business in the car park, despite this contravening MOL guidance.

We request, therefore, that the LVRPA hold a proper consultation, carry out a proper scoring assessment (showing all their working), and in the meantime remove the decision on the new Ice Centre from the meeting on 16th June.

Your sincerely,

Save Lea Marshes Group.

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Leyton Marsh Is Their No.1 Choice: But Do The Numbers Add Up?

Scoring the Sites 

It is important not to be taken in by the “scoring matrix” that the LVRPA has used to assess the relative merits of the four alternative sites for the new Ice Centre.  The fact that it is based on numbers lends it a spurious air of objectivity.  As it happens its whole methodology is seriously flawed.

   
Lea Bridge Rd

LV Ice Centre

Lea Bridge Rd

Waterworks

Olympic Park

Eton Manor

Picketts Lock

Athletics Centre

Location 16.1% 16.1% 16.6% 9.7%
Accessibility/Transport 14.0% 13.6% 14.8% 9.2%
Physical Characteristics 17.6% 12.8% 10.8% 18.8%
Commercial/Financial 13.2% 16.8% 14.0% 13.2%
Policy 13.8% 13.3% 14.4% 14.2%
Overall score 74.6% 72.6% 70.6% 65.1%
RANK 1 2 3 4

 

Firstly, the numbers are all expressed as percentages.  But percentages of what — perfection?  For example, if a site scores 50% on car-parking, does that mean that it has only half the required number of car-parking spaces?  If that is so, then clearly all four sites must be rejected out-of-hand, since none of them scores more than 20% on any of the five criteria.  So what do the percentages represent?  Should we interpret them as purely relative numbers?  So (to use the example of car-parking again), if one site scores 10% for car-parking and another scores 20%, does that mean that the second site has twice as many parking spaces as the first?  But what if the first site has enough spaces?  It cannot then be seriously argued that the second site is twice as good (as regards car-parking), merely because it has a lot of superfluous spaces.

Even if the objection above can be overcome – if the scores shown for the four sites for one criterion truly represent the sites’ relative merits as regards that one criterion – we are still left with a problem when we come to combine the scores for different criteria.  Consider the following situation, with two sites and two criteria.

Criterion LV Ice Centre Eton Manor
Physical characteristics 17.6% 10.8%
Commercial/Financial 13.2% 14.0%

This shows that the LV Ice Centre is better than Eton Manor for physical characteristics, but worse for commercial/financial.  But how are we to obtain a combined score?  Remember that the numbers in the table only have a meaning when read horizontally – there is no meaningful comparison when read vertically.  For all we know, an acceptable score for Physical characteristics might be 100% while an acceptable score for commercial/financial might be 14%.  In that case the relative advantage of the LV Ice Centre in physical characteristics will be outweighed by its relative deficiency in commercial/financial.  Before we can begin to calculate a combined score, we need to know the theoretical ranges of the individual scores.

It may be case that the theoretical ranges of the individual scores are all the same.  But that itself is highly questionable, since it would imply that all the criteria are of equal importance.  Are they all of equal importance?  There seems no reason to assume so.  (And it could also be argued that there are some criteria missing altogether.)  If they are of unequal importance, then they need to be appropriately weighted before they can be added together.

But is adding the scores together the correct way to calculate an overall score in any case?  Suppose that all of the above problems have been addressed: we have two criteria (X and Y) that have the same ranges (let us say 0% to 20%), and they are of equal importance (so they do not need to be weighted).  Consider two sites (A and B); on criterion X Site B is 10 times better than Site A, on criterion Y Site A is 2 times better than Site B.  Which site is better overall?  Common sense would suggest Site B.  But that is not necessarily the answer that the LVRPA would give you.  Consider the following scores.

Criterion Site A Site B
Criterion X 1% 10%
Criterion Y 20% 10%

Note that on criterion X site B is 10 times better than site A, and on criterion Y site A is 2 times better than site B, as previously stated.  If you are the LVRPA, you would just add the scores for the two criteria together, getting 21% for Site A and 20% for Site B.  So Site A wins.  But is that the right answer?  It could well be argued that Site B should win, because its relative merit on criterion X outweighs its relative deficiency on criterion Y.  Indeed, it could be argued that overall scores should be calculated by multiplying the individual scores, not by adding them.

It does not appear that the LVRPA has taken any of these considerations into account in producing its “scoring matrix”.  That being so, its value is very dubious.

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Leyton Marsh: Our Red Line for Development!

central bog

Last time around – we can’t forget the mess made of Leyton Marsh!

It has recently been revealed that Leyton Marsh is regarded by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority as the preferred site for a new ‘double-pad’ ice centre. This is the development we have been suspecting and fearing was in the pipeline ever since the destructive development of the multi-million pound temporary Olympic structure they built on the marsh and deconstructed in 2012, leaving a serious mess of our requisitioned common land and no legacy benefit for all the taxpayers’ money spent.

Just as the marsh has started to recover, a range of species appearing for the first time since the inappropriate sports turf was rolled to cover the scarred land left by the development, we now face it being dug up all over again. For a venue that may just be the beginning of the massive development planned by the folk who just love to ‘regenerate’ green into brown…

 

Leyton Marsh, which they disingenuously refer to as the ‘the Lea Bridge Road site’ apparently came out top when they conducted a statistical analysis of four possible sites for a double-pad ice centre they wish to construct in the Lower Lee Valley. The four sites under consideration for development are all supposedly ‘protected’ Metropolitan Open Land, they are: The Waterworks Centre, Picketts Lock, Eton Manor and Leyton Marsh. However, on closer inspection, we discovered the Authority’s ‘viability’ analysis of the sites in question is not what it appeared to be.

 

Leyton Marsh came out on top in their analysis, primarily due to its ‘physical characteristics’, which sounds convincing and benign – they must mean the green of Leyton Marsh and the close proximity to the beautiful Walthamstow Marshes, right? Wrong. The category ‘physical characteristics’ is determined by:

  • How the curtilage of the ice pads would fit on the site
  • Capability of expansion
  • Ability to generate other revenue opportunities
  • Ground and Landscape constraints (example – proximity of Flood Relief Channel to Waterworks site)

Now if you break down this criterion, you can really sum it up in one word – expansion! They want the maximum possible ground area and least possible number of physical constraints so that they can expand the site as much as possible and in doing so create the maximum number of commercial ventures, or to use the LVRPA’s favourite phrase, ‘revenue opportunities’.

The Park Authority is planning to double the skating capacity of the ice centre AND have a gym and dance studio on top AND still they want the capacity to expand beyond this. Indeed, it seems that it is the capacity to expand which means Leyton Marsh was favoured over Eton Manor, which at least has the advantage of being in the Olympic zone, or the spiritual home of empty car parks, however you wish to conceive of it.

In fact, if you take the category of ‘physical characteristics’, or expansion, out of the equation, then Leyton Marsh actually comes third in the scoring system they have devised, behind Eton Manor and the Waterworks.

Now this is where a friend of SLM was assured by the Chief Exec of the LVRPA that there would be no expansion beyond the red lines. On the plans, a solid ‘red line’ runs alongside the river Lea, so the Special Interest for Nature Conservation site appears to be protected as the building cannot go any further west of this point. The Canal and Rivers Trust also own some of this land which restricts development, at least by the LVRPA, adjacent to the river Lea. Yet there is a dotted ‘red line’ around all the buildings. Shaun Dawson was not clear about what sort of expansion would happen in this area and presumably adaptations can be made to the plans for building and development works. We have seen ‘variations’ to development works many times; the Council simply need to give permission for a ‘variation’ in planning conditions and the nature of development works can transform dramatically. The ODA, for example, initially applied to the Planning Committee of Waltham Forest Council to excavate just 15mm of soil in order to put up a 11m structure on Leyton Marsh. It was simply not viable that this would be observed, yet Waltham Forest Council appear to lack the basic oversight of planning applications that local residents undertake. They will once again decide what planning permission is given on Leyton Marsh and, as any even half-aware Waltham Forest resident will know, their history in opposing inappropriate or oversized developments leaves much to be desired!

Since they granted permission for the temporary basketball training facility on Leyton Marsh, the status of the land has changed. Its use is now narrowly defined as being for the purpose of ‘recreation and leisure’. Its value for nature is not taken into consideration. Its openness should be protected due to its MOL status. However, controversial developments that compromise that very openness have been regularly permitted on Metropolitan Open Land, locally the development of the commercial livery on Leyton Marshes and the construction of a car park on Hackney Marshes went unopposed by the planning authorities in the last couple of years.

When Leyton Marsh was chosen for the site of the temporary basketball training facility we were aware that ‘temporary’ often simply opens the door to something permanent. This was one of the reasons we campaigned so hard to prevent that construction. Now we see how that development is likely to open the door to the expansion of the Ice Centre because I have little doubt that when Waltham Forest comes to consider this at the planning stage, reference will be made to the precedent the temporary facility set for using the marshes for sport facilities.

In addressing concerns about Leyton Marsh, Shaun Dawson ambiguously and, with our experience, somewhat ominously said, ‘The relationship between the ice centre and the marsh has to change.’

What’s more, whilst the new double-pad ice centre is under construction, we have been told that there will be construction of a ‘temporary’ ice centre that users will be able to access at the same time. At the presentations about the plans, the audience were told that any such structure would be at the front of the ice centre, on the car park. However, if you look at the site, this is likely to mean there will be overspill development onto Leyton Marsh backwards or the destruction of trees and other greenery to the side of the present venue. Oh and they might just find that the site of the former and hardly used ‘basketball training facility’ has a handy plastic membrane underground, sectioning off the contaminated material underneath, and all the electrical wiring and pipes that served the former facility and all the original foundations still in the ground. But I’m sure they were just buried by accident weren’t they?

So we’d like to suggest our own categories for LVRPA consideration when planning their new facilities on Leyton Marsh:

– Views of the marsh will be seriously obstructed from Lea Bridge Road and the integrity of our valued Lea Valley marshes as a green lung for East London will be compromised.

 

 Noise pollution will be an issue for local residents, particularly at Essex Wharf, and especially during the night where they already have to put up with an incessant hum which I remember well from the days of the community protection camp on the marsh. Light pollution will also increase and inevitably affect wildlife.

 

– Ground contamination must be considered since the site is contaminated by heavy metals, asbestos and alkaline soils, as well as known UXOs. Assurances that this will be dealt with ‘appropriately’ just do not wash, considering that spoil from the previous development had to be removed as toxic waste, and not before marsh users had been exposed to contaminants.

 

– Expandability: one of the most concerning aspects of the chosen site is that it is preferred due to its potential for expansion. Our community love this marsh and do not wish to see it built on. The stables have already seen 12 expansions on to previously open public land on Leyton Marshes. This is a worrying precedent.

 

– Car parking: the current car park is rarely full, a bigger car park will lead to yet more felling of trees and reduction of green space and yet a bigger venue will no doubt have one. Car parking increases will increase traffic, congestion and air pollution on the Lea Bridge Road. The Mini Holland scheme, which just led to the destruction of mature trees on the marsh, was meant to reduce reliance on cars.

– ‘Development, Development, Development‘  Leyton Marsh acts as a buffer for the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) on Walthamstow Marsh.  Walthamstow Marsh is rapidly getting enclosed and cut off. I understand that there are plans for a housing development  on Argall Road on the other side of the railway line, there is Riverside Close on the other side of the river and now there is the threat of development on Leyton Marsh.

– Low Spec: One of the reasons Eton Manor was not selected as the prime venue is due to the higher building spec that would be required, suggesting the building on Lea Bridge Road will be visually poor, not unlike the current building.

 

‘Lastly but not leastly’ we know you lie LVRPA, you lie and you lie again; we have comprehensive experience of dishonesty and disregard for the safety and welfare of the public during previous ‘development’ works on Leyton Marsh. And we will be with you every step of the way again as you try and tear up the marsh –as valuable to nature as it is to the hundreds of local residents without gardens.

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